Data analysis is all about comprehending the meaning and significance of individual data points. One of the easiest ways to attribute significance to data is when trends begin to emerge. 2014 was an interesting year because we saw a considerable number of findings repeatedly appear in our data sets. We thought it would be helpful to share some of those trends. Below are the nine major stakeholder insights from 2014. You can also check out our insights from 2013 and 2012.
How to Improve Sales
1) Accounts need deal health evaluations
The Stakeholder Insight
“Every sales executive suffers from ‘feeling good’ too early or not timing the deal. We all need sales management to scrutinize the deal. There should be a detailed review of one major deal per month, where sales management provides guidance on whether sales execs are on track on regarding strategy and thinking.”
Whether it is due to an abundance of optimism, misunderstanding typical sales cycles, or facing unexpected complications, the tendency to overestimate deal forecasts are common in almost every sales force. While this might solve the problem in the short-term, it does not consistently improve forecasting accuracy across the entire business. To do that, one needs consistent, predictable analytics.
2) Can’t sell it if you don’t understand it
The Stakeholder Insight
“The people who are in best position to explain (sales) do not do a great job of [selling the value proposition of the organization] because they aren’t integrated with the rest of the team and don’t fully ‘get’ it. We need to get more cross-disciplinary.”
In theory, the salesperson is the one who can deliver the best sales pitch and he/she is the one who regularly interacts with the product on a functional level. But sometimes work streams ossify, leading to a disconnect when it comes to understanding and communicating the true value proposition. A sales force that cannot fully understand the function of the product will not be as effective at communicating the value of the product to prospective clients.
3) Sales and Marketing are frequently misaligned
The Stakeholder Insight
“There’s a significant disconnection between what the different marketing segments are delivering and what the sales team would need in order to be more effective with their customers. The fact that Marketing is fragmented (product, country, global, etc.) doesn’t help.”
The disconnect between marketing and sales is neither a new phenomenon, nor a rare occurrence. Marketing either has little idea what the sales team needs or is not properly equipped to provide the necessary information. But marketing needs to be good at both of these aspects and provide direction to sales. Sales teams, on the other hand, do not know how to tell marketing teams what they really need or just do not have the time to iron out the process and continually tweak it. Defining marketing and sales responsibilities begins with a clearly established work-stream between the two groups as well as constant communication to ensure alignment of needs.
Quality Organizational Communication Must Be a Priority
4) Communication across departments should be a habit
“Departments only communicate with one another when something is going wrong or when something is needed.”
It is easy to forget that other departments exist until there is a crisis. Departments, however, can diminish the number of crises if they communicate with each other routinely. While it is impossible to know what everyone else is doing, remaining connected with other departments helps build trust. A “crisis” situation might become only a minor inconvenience if everyone is aware of the problem and knows what is being done to remedy the situation.
5) Simplicity is the key to efficient communication
“There is a lot of miscommunication on my team and projects. Everyone feels the need to post their responses on over 3 platforms to look like they’ve added their feedback or 2 cents… I also never know the best platform to reach people…”
With the plethora of communication tools available to organizations, it is easy to overwhelm employees with too many ways to communicate with each other. Communication overload is exacerbated by individual preferences and siloed communication practices. Some communication tools service the needs of one team well, but not the needs of another team. Sometimes it is easier to just keep it simple and reduce the number of tools.
6) Global teams have a heightened need for communication
“Communication is not clear and sometimes it is not provided to all team members.”
The sentiment of this participant was particularly interesting because, while the individuals in the centralized location generally thought communication was effective. The non-central employees, however, had much more difficulty understanding communication. For any global team, communication will always be more challenging. Because of the separation, leaders have to take extra steps to ensure global members are connected to discussions. Perfect integration might not be possible, but it can be easily improved through intentional planning and execution.
Simplicity and Clarity are Key to Facilitating Success
7) CRM systems can easily overwhelm users
“The CRM is vastly over complicated, time consuming, has too many entry / navigation points poorly labeled. Provides little value to my role. It is a task I must perform but do not use to conduct my business.”
CRM systems are an excellent illustration of the need for simplicity. While most employees understand the value of CRM, they dread the idea of logging seemingly important data. Too often, stakeholders will want multiple layers of functionality that require multiple inputs. There are many complications that arise from tracking customer information, but minimizing the complexity of input requirements is key to ensuring adoption. Few people have the patience (or the time) to input information into dozens of fields. Any organization must keep it simple if they want useable, reliable, and consistent information.
8) Leaders need to set clear performance expectations
“From high-performing employees even more performance is required, whereas from average employees there are no additional expectations in my opinion. This causes high-performers to become frustrated at the uneven work distribution.”
Uneven performance expectations are common in organizations, particularly large ones. The difficulty arises from properly setting expectations with employees. Often, high performers feel they are underappreciated even though leaders greatly appreciate the work the high performers do for the organization. Too often, inconsistent performance is a result of inconsistent understandings of vague performance standards. In addition to praising high performers, leaders can greatly improve team performance by setting clear and measurable performance goals.
9) People prefer simple compensation plans
“Our compensation plan is very complex with many moving parts. Throw in the “Draw” at the beginning of the year and you have the potential to confuse the employee even more. We need a simple performance based metric that captures both interests of [the organization] and of the employee”
While some might prefer complex compensation schemes that reward specific actions, most employees would rather have a simple, straightforward plan. The quicker an employee can understand how and why they are compensated the way they are, the better they are able to perform with minimal ambiguity.
For the past three years, we have created a roundup of the top stakeholder insights and this year revealed some unique insights especially when it came to improving sales. Tell us which insights stood out for you in our comments! Also catch up of the best stakeholder insights from 2013 and 2012